“Being a smart nation is not about flaunting glitzy technology, but … applying technology to solve real problems that will make a difference to people’s lives, and across the whole of society.” These were the words of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loog as he addressed the audience at the Smart Nation Summit in 2019.
PM Lee’s statement resonates well with a recent commentary by Carol Soon and Shawn Goh from Institute of Policy studies. They believe that to realise the vision of a Smart Nation for all, the next phase of Singapore’s Smart Nation must pivot and focus on securing impact on citizens in three ways — strengthening our digital psyche, closing the participation gap, and scaling up partnerships.
Singapore has successfully established itself as a digitally advanced nation, one of the few nations who were well placed to manage the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. But the recent debates about the use of Trace Together data for criminal investigations have highlighted that factors like people’s trust and comfort level with the technology greatly impact the adoption of the digital service.
All these debates and discussions have brought forth the fact that becoming a smart nation requires more than making available the hardware and infrastructure requires to implement it. The “software” challenges also need to be overcome to fully enjoy the benefits of digitisation.
To strengthen these ‘softer’ aspects of becoming a smart nation in the true sense, Singapore needs to focus on the following 3 pillars:
Strengthening our Digital Psyche:
With the rapid digital transformation in the last 10 months, citizens have been bombarded with digital scams and misinformation. In a recent study, it was found that Singaporeans of higher age group and lower socio-economic backgrounds, were found to be more susceptible to false information.
People with high confirmation bias and low knowledge of the digital media landscape were more vulnerable. They were more likely to believe falsehoods aligned with their existing beliefs and were unaware of how and where information online originated from.
These findings highlight key areas of improvement in strengthening Singaporeans’ digital psyche. In particular, public education encouraging residents to be introspective about individual biases when navigating the online space can be ramped up to build national resilience against misinformation that exploit such vulnerabilities.
Another is to equip people with more knowledge on the digital media and tech landscape, so they can better appreciate and assess the credibility of the online information they receive.
Such interventions are resources we can turn to when enhancing digital literacy programmes here by adapting what works for our local context.
Closing the Participation Gap:
The second pillar of focus is to reduce the participation gap due to age, income, and occupational lines. The idea is to not leave behind a single citizen and ensure that they can leverage the technology to its full potential.
A first step to closing these disparities is to establish a national framework that maps out key digital skills all Singaporeans should possess to fully participate in today’s digital world. Countries that have established such guidelines setting minimal standards residents should work towards have seen their efforts bear fruit.
These include digital foundational skills that underpin all other digital skills, such as knowing how to connect to the Internet and maintain online login information.
The framework also outlines digital communication skills, such as communicating with others via email or instant messaging apps and using word processors to create and share documents like a personal resume.
Yet another group of skills looked at those needed for online transaction skills, like being able to access digital financial services and fill in request forms for public goods and services.
Establishing a similar framework for Singapore will help map out basic but critical digital literacies and identify the digital skills gap for different segments of society. This will aid the design of targeted interventions whether by the Government, self-help groups or non-profits to plug existing participation gaps.
Scaling up Partnerships:
The third pillar is to focus on Several new digital initiatives like Seniors Go Digital, and Hawkers Go Digital to speed up the roll out the National Digital Literacy programme.
The private sector has been also been bolstering public sector efforts in meeting the needs of targeted segments. Organisations such as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Airlines and Temasek Foundation donated and distributed mobile phones to various communities during the pandemic, in addition to face masks, hand sanitisers.
The people sector has also stepped up to provide ground-up solutions to help fill existing gaps. Initiatives like Engineering Good collected and donated laptops to low-income students. Others, like SG Bono and Readable Asia, have conducted classes for children on how to access the Internet safely.
Singapore has achieved great feats in its smart nation journey and has been able to accelerate it throughout the pandemic. The next step in this journey should be to make technology and digital initiatives more inclusive and citizen-friendly.
The Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) recently launched a ground-breaking Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Psychology that incorporates technology modules with psychology, in an emerging field known as cyberpsychology.
According to the Programme Leader, “Cyberpsychology is the study of human behaviour and mental processes in the context of human-technology interaction. The focus of this module is on the psychology of online behaviour, to uncover how the internet and digital technologies affect attitudes, emotions, and the societal impacts of living in a digital age, such as the exploration of the motives and psychological makeup that contribute to Cybercrime, she said.
While psychology professionals work in human domains, students in this field must now develop a strong grasp of technological aspects, especially when the line between cyberspace and the real world is becoming increasingly blurred.
Globally, the adoption rate of emerging technologies – including cloud computing, connected devices, mobile, robotics and blockchain, have grown at an exponential rate over the past 10 years. As of April 2022, there were five billion internet users worldwide, which is 63% of the global population. Of this total, 4.65 billion were social media users.
Further, the arrival of the Metaverse will even reinforce the blurring of the lines between the physical world and the virtual one, the physical world will eventually merge with the digital – in fully immersive virtual reality.
As technology reshapes the way people live, think, and behave, the transformation of psychology studies has introduced new ways to provide treatment or therapy. This has affected the dissemination of knowledge and how research is conducted.
Within the programme’s modules, students will also be exposed to Psychotechnology, to understand user experience (UX), cognitive workload and use these results to solve practical problems. These updated, relevant modules allow students to develop vital skills and knowledge, enabling them to work in various sectors, such as e-sports, advertising, and more that require further study to determine their psychological impacts.
To create a conducive learning and studying environment mirroring the professional setting that supports both counselling and clinical psychology needs, APU has invested significantly to set up the Centre for Psychology and Well-Being at its campus.
The Head of the School who oversees the setting up of the Centre, explained that as a tech-centric and industry-driven university, APU has blended technology elements into conventional psychology teaching and learning. The University’s Centre for Psychology and Well-Being is an innovative facility that houses advanced equipment embedded with state-of-the-art technology that supports psychology learning and research – which itself has set us apart from our competitors.
The Centre aims to develop a professional-like high-tech centre which attracts students towards experiential learning coupled with a comfortable learning environment.
According to the Programme Leader, by placing psychological tools infused with modern technology to better predict and understand human behaviour such as Electroencephalogram (EEG), Eye Tracker, and Computerised Psychological Assessments, students can learn to make data-driven decisions.
Together with Eye-Tracking Laboratory, the design of the Centre includes Psychobiological Laboratory; Psychoanalysis Therapy Suites for both individual and group therapy; Psychological Testing and Measurement Room; Psychology Group Observation Suite that is complimented with a one-way mirror and AV capture equipment; Activity and Discussion Rooms; and teaching classrooms that are tied to instructional learning and research activities.
Some highlights of the training using the advanced setting and facilities mentioned include:
- The DSI-24 Electroencephalogram (EEG) – a wireless dry electrode EEG headset in the Psychobiological Lab enables students to learn about cognitive processes like attention and memory by placing conductive electrodes on the scalp which measure the small electrical potentials that arise outside of the head due to neuronal action within the brain.
- In the Psychological Testing and Measurement Room, the latest state-of-the-art Tobii Pro Fusion Eye Tracker which focuses on information processing such as scene perception, and visual searching, provides students with a first-hand experience in using the equipment.
- The Psychoanalysis Therapy Suite features the famous Freud psychoanalytic couch. This help students learn role-play skills or to conduct any activity relating to counselling or psychotherapy.
- The Psychology Group Observation Suite is equipped with a one-way mirror (semi-transparent mirror), brightly lit from one side, allowing students to inconspicuously observe people’s behaviour on the other side while maintaining privacy.
- Individual (and Group) Therapy Rooms are designed to provide a quiet, comfortable, energizing, and soothing space ideal for conducting individual or group counselling. Registered counsellors and educators will use the rooms to provide their respective services like consultation, teaching, and intern-related training.
With proficiency in using advanced technology, especially digital assessments, APU’s psychology graduates become tech-savvy and well equipped for the competitive world of the psychology industry.
The government has issued a national cybersecurity strategy to respond to challenges and crimes in cyberspace. The strategy sets objectives for 2025 as well as has a vision for 2030. Under the strategy, one of the main targets is to maintain or increase Vietnam’s ranking on the global cybersecurity index (GCI).
In a press statement, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) laid out the major tasks and solutions in the strategy, including strengthening the overall management of the State over cybersecurity, completing legal frameworks, and protecting national sovereignty in cyberspace.
The government will also safeguard digital infrastructure, platforms, data, and national cyberinfrastructure. It will protect the information systems of state agencies as well as crucial sectors that need to be prioritised to ensure information security.
Through the strategy, the country will foster digital trust and build an honest, civilized, and healthy network environment. It will prevent and combat law violations in cyberspace and enhance technological mastery and autonomy to actively cope with cyberspace challenges.
The government will train and develop human resources in cybersecurity, raise awareness about cybersecurity skills, and work to secure funding to implement cybersecurity initiatives. The strategy also aims to improve national prestige and foster international integration.
Meanwhile, incident response teams of 11 priority sectors for network information security will be formed. The key areas include transport, energy, natural resources and environment, information, health, finance, banking, defense, security, social order and safety, urban areas, and the government’s direction and administration.
According to a report released by the ITU in June 2021, Vietnam jumped 25 places after two years to rank 25th out of 194 countries and territories worldwide in the GCI in 2020. Vietnam ranked 7th in the Asia-Pacific region and 4th among ASEAN countries in the field.
According to Vietnam Information Security Association (VINSA), there were over 5,400 cyber-attacks on Vietnamese systems in the first five months of this year. Of these, approximately 68% were malicious attacks. However, May showed a decrease in the number of cyber incidents, due to socio-economic stability and the resumption of more economic activities initiated around the Party’s solutions and guidelines, according to the Information Security Department, MIC.
Further, after MIC issued a warning, incidents were down 9.37% in April as compared to March 2022. The government has been proactive in raising vigilance, strengthening cyber information security as well as security and social order. This has made it difficult for bad actors to attack networks, spread infecting malicious code, and run scams to steal and destroy information of users and organisations.
In June, MIC stated that to ensure information security for information systems and Vietnam’s cyberspace, it would continue to strengthen monitoring and proactive scanning; it would evaluate statistics and promote propaganda and issue warning in the mass media so that users know and avoid the risk of cyber-attacks.
MIC also said it would address the situation by strengthening mechanisms for monitoring and proactive scanning, raising public awareness, and providing advance warnings of expected cyberattacks. Simultaneously, the Ministry would continue to urge the review of vulnerabilities and communicate signs of cyberattacks.
Marsdya TNI Donny Ermawan Taufanto, Secretary-General of the Indonesian Ministry of Defense formally inaugurated the ongoing 2022 Defense Research and Development Week with the theme “Research, Development, and Innovation of Defense Technology in Realising the Independence of Defense Equipment Tools.”
The Secretary-General urged all citizens to love, appreciate, and be proud of the innovations created by the nation’s youth. He cited that the activities have an important role in publication and scientific information to understand and produce the best solutions in the form of constructive and innovative suggestions for R & D development in the defence sector.
The activity was organised by Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense – Research and Development Agency in the form of an exhibition that displays defence equipment resulting from research and development of universities, R & D agencies, and domestic industries.
On the other hand, the Secretary-General acknowledged the exhibits of the innovative defence types of equipment, and his attention was focused on the Moto EV, a two-wheeled vehicle with an electric engine. The Moto EV is perfect for silent operation because the noise level has been minimised.
Also, the activity exhibited innovative creations in the IT sector like the Pasupati, a Pindad Simulation Product of Virtual Reality, which is a technology for digitally simulating shooting activities using weapon products.
Using VR principles, users will be invited to interact with the virtual world environment using the console, as if they were using and shooting with real weapons. With a level of ease that has a sensation like playing video games, Pasupati offers easy and real use of weapons while minimising the level of danger.
The activities of the 2022 Defense R&D Week honour the 27th National Technology Awakening Day, which aims to accommodate brilliant ideas from academics and researchers to contribute to the development of defence technology and attain future defence equipment independence.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Information and Communication Technology Training and Development Centre Research and Human Resources Development Agency of the Ministry of Communication and Information (Kominfo) held a Regional Workshop On Digital Diplomacy with the theme “The Essence of Information and Communication Technology for Government Leaders.”
The activity is intended for Government Officials for the e-government implementation of countries and territories in the Pacific region such as the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Hence, the activity was a follow-up to the International Conference on Digital Diplomacy (ICDD) with the theme “Unmasking Digital Diplomacy in the New Normal” which was held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2021.
The ICDD 2021 activity was attended by 20 countries and produced the Bali Message on ICDD which has identified five focus areas, namely:
- Government Policy Framework to Support Digital Diplomacy;
- Crisis Management Through Digital Diplomacy;
- Data Management to Support Digital Diplomacy;
- Innovation to Support SMEs; and
- Capacity Building and Digital Inclusion.
The ICDD follow-up series will continue to be carried out by the nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the cornerstone of Digital Diplomacy. In the next activity, the Ministry will hold a Regional Government social media (GSMS) Conference, a scientific discussion forum on the use of digital media among governments to share new perspectives and experiences, which provide solutions to challenges in digital diplomacy through government social media.
In response to the need for indoor urban farming solutions, the National University of Singapore (NUS) officially opened the Research Centre on Sustainable Urban Farming (SUrF) to bring together the diverse expertise of principal investigators from across the University to develop new science and technology-based solutions for urban farming in the country.
“NUS is committed to making significant contributions towards Singapore’s food policy agenda, together with partners in the public sector and the industry. We aim to create a globally competitive research programme in sustainable urban farming that incorporates smart agriculture solutions for diverse stakeholders,” says Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS President.
A core team from the domains of science, engineering, and computing makes up SUrF, a research organisation that focuses on sustainable urban farming. This exclusive group of researchers has experience in a variety of topics, including plant science, genomics and gene editing, microbiomes, food science, materials and polymer science, sensor technologies, data science, and artificial intelligence (AI) for indoor farming.
The team will start multidisciplinary programmes to build a cross-boundary, sustainable platform for improving plant performance both before and after harvest, including harvest yield, nutritional profile, and safety assurance.
A new facility for the Centre, with around 200 square metres of indoor plant growth area for research, is planned to be completed by early 2023.
There will be three growth rooms and an additional precision growth room where environmental parameters such as temperature and light spectrum can be changed to promote better plant growth with potentially improved phytonutrients.
PlantEye, a non-destructive phenotyping device for monitoring plant development and recording plant health, as well as many analytical tools for studying nutrient content, will be part of the research equipment.
The Centre will also have access to NUS’s cutting-edge laboratories for molecular genetics research, including gene editing.
Furthermore, SUrF’s research focuses on three stages of food production: before, during, and after production. The goal of the Centre is to come up with solutions for growers and work with local businesses to meet their needs.
Post-harvest interventions can also help improve the nutritional value and microbial safety of food. According to preliminary findings, LED lighting not only removes organisms that cause spoiling but also increases the nutritional quality of green crops.
The team’s next steps will be to develop LED illumination technology specifically for green vegetables typically consumed in Singapore, as well as to test their technique in simulated retail circumstances.
In addition, there are 16 principal investigators in SUrF from the NUS Departments of Biological Science, Food Science and Technology, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Computer Science. They oversee about 10 research projects.
One of these projects is trying to make it easier to grow leafy greens in cities. Most crops grown on indoor farms aren’t good for controlled environments because they were grown in the field. This makes growing plants indoors ineffective and unsustainable, with a low yield.
Researchers are looking into new ways to breed plants, such as genomic selection and gene editing, to make leafy vegetable varieties with traits that work well in controlled environments. This is done to improve the quality and productivity of agriculture.
On the other hand, the team made bio-inoculants of bacteria that help plants grow. These can be used in different farming situations, such as when plants are grown in soil, peat, or coconut fibres, or when hydroponic systems are used.
This could help crops grow better and be more resilient in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment. It could also reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has launched CovidInArea, a privacy-preserving mobile-friendly app which integrates and visualizes open data. It includes a list of buildings visited by cases who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past 14 days (hereinafter referred to as “incident places”), from the Department of Health (DoH) of the HKSAR Government as an easily accessible heatmap, providing a free location-based tool for users to understand their risk due to proximity with the incident places.
Making use of big data mining and machine learning techniques, a team led by Prof. Gary CHAN Shueng-Han from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering has designed and developed the app, which consists of a real-time heatmap for browsing the locations of the incident places at a glance.
Unlike other existing platforms and apps which mostly require users to check the locations manually, CovidInArea runs the check automatically by providing real-time GPS support for mobile users. It is the first public COVID-19-related app available in both Google Play Store and Apple App Store developed by a university for city-wide use anywhere in Hong Kong.
The heatmap pinpoints incident places given by DoH, based on data updated continuously as per the government’s related daily information release. By zooming in and out on the heatmap, users can immediately gain a complete picture of the incident places, which are indicated by hues of different temperatures, hence able to make informed decisions in their daily routine, path planning and keep safe distancing.
User privacy is ensured in CovidInArea, which requires no user registration and collects no personal information beyond GPS location. All computations are carried out with results presented locally on the user’s phone, while the GPS location, once consumed, is immediately discarded without storage at any time.
In addition, with GPS on, users are enabled to easily visualise in a chart – over several days – the number of incidents placed in their proximity in real-time. Taking into consideration the distance, users’ dwell time, and number of places of incidence in proximity, the app also indicates the overall proximity risk using a colour radar chart:
- Red: Overall high sustained contact with incident places. Recommended to reduce high-risk places, manage health and take voluntary testing if needed.
- Yellow:Medium risk. Be cautious. Plan safe paths to reduce risk.
- Green:Low risk. Stay vigilant.
Prof. Gary Chan stated that because the number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong has remained high as of late, the app provides a timely and user-friendly reference on incident places to help citizens stay vigilant of their surroundings and take precautions if necessary to proactively reduce the infection risk while commuting.
He added that with CovidInArea, users can take appropriate actions to plan daily routes, manage their health, and keep a safe distance from the incident places. The professor also thanked the government for opening up the data for public use to fight against COVID-19 together.
Prof. Gary CHAN Shueng-Han is an expert in the development of novel and precise sensing and positioning technologies for smart applications. The government has worked alongside him to develop a geofencing technology applied in the StayHomeSafe app to enforce local home quarantine orders. He has also innovated a privacy-preserving mobile app that senses registered Bluetooth signals to efficiently search for missing dementia patients in the city. His indoor navigation technology has also been deployed in many malls and venues.
Promoting digital transactions
Traders at Ha Long 1 and Ha Long 2 markets in the Quang Ninh province are now able to go cashless using digital payment services under a 4.0 market model. State-run enterprise Viettel Quang Ninh is the supplier of non-cash payment services in the two markets.
All small traders in the markets will make digital payments through Viettel Money, a digital payment platform. Payments can be made via phone numbers, QR codes, or bank transfers. Fees for electricity, water, and environmental sanitation can also be paid with a Viettel Money account.
According to an official, to achieve the government’s target to have electronic payment rates reach 50% by 2025, digital payments must become part of daily life in both urban and rural areas. Viettel Quang Ninh has readied technology and human resources to coordinate with Hạ Long city’s authorities to deploy cashless applications.
In April this year, Ha Long city issued a plan to develop non-cash payment methods for the 2022-2025 period, under which the city aims to have 90% of citizens 15 years and older own transaction accounts and have non-cash payments in e-commerce reach 50%. The average growth in the volume and value of non-cash payment transactions is expected to expand by 20-25% per year, while 100% of the tuition fees of educational institutions and schools in Ha Long should be paid through cashless methods.
Ha Long city’s public administration centre has guided and supported citizens in making payment transactions on the National Public Service Portal. By July, over 1,400 citizens had paid taxes and other fees through the system, with a total amount of over US$ 727,400, accounting for 84% of total transactions.
Quang Ninh authorities are promoting comprehensive digital transformation, especially in administrative reform, hoping to attract investment into the locality. Since June, digitisation and data extraction platforms have been piloted at the provincial public administration service centre and in the sectors of justice; labour, invalids, and society; education and training; health care; and information and communication.
Over 9,300 enterprises in the region have registered to use e-invoices. Quang Ninh has so far provided 1,712 Level-4 online public services out of the 1,832 administrative procedures. The rate of administrative procedure documents received and processed online via the online public service portal reached 62%. Up to 1,180 online public services at levels 3-4 of the locality have been synchronised on the national public service portal.
Local authorities are developing modern and synchronous infrastructure facilities and enhancing regional linkages to promote economic growth. As of early June 2022, the province’s non-budget investment attraction reached over US $1.6 billion. Last year, Quang Ninh topped Vietnam’s Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) and the Satisfaction Index of Public Administration Services (SIPAS). It also ranked second in the public administration reform (PAR) Index. The locality posted an estimated growth rate of 10.66% in the gross regional domestic product (GRDP) in the first six months of this year, which is 2.64 percentage points higher than the rate in the same period of 2021. Quang Ninh collected over US $1.17 billion for the state budget, an increase of 18% year-on-year.
Cloud adoption, software modernisation, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity, according to Lily Zeleke, Acting Deputy Chief Information Officer for Information Enterprise, Department of Défense, are crucial to all Defence Department missions.
“Our ability to deliver information at resilience and speed, as well as [delivering] secure information to our people, is paramount to staying ahead of adversaries,” says Lily.
The funding of these technologies within the allocated budget, she continued, is a compromise between cost-effectiveness and mission effectiveness. “Zero trust is a key aspect in the success of the transition to the cloud.”
The DOD has a vast amount of data, and zero trust is about protecting it at all levels and granting the right people access to the data they need for mission success at the correct security levels.
As outlined in the DOD’s 2022 Software Modernisation Strategy, all the services and the department are currently trying to consolidate, streamline, and deploy information enterprise modernization.
Meanwhile, 50 states have joined an anti-robocall litigation task force to investigate the telecommunications firms who are mostly held accountable for introducing foreign robocalls into the US, according to Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.
The sole objective of this cross-partisan, national Task Force is to reduce illegal robocalls as 16 states, including Connecticut, make up the Executive Committee overseeing this task force.
Although gateway providers have a duty to verify that foreign traffic entering the American phone network is lawful, they are not doing enough to prevent robocall traffic.
The Task Force will concentrate on the telecom sector to lessen the number of robocalls that Connecticut residents receive and to aid the businesses that are operating within the law.
Over 33 million scam robocalls are placed on Americans every day, according to the National Consumer Law Centre and Electronic Privacy Information Centre. Among the various frauds targeting customers, especially some of the most vulnerable populations, are Social Security Administration fraud against the elderly.
The Task Force’s main goal is to close the companies that make money off this illegal scam traffic and won’t take any other action to reduce the number of scam calls. Attorney General Tong provides the following advice for avoiding con artists and telemarketers:
The first is to be cautious of callers who expressly request that you make a gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency payment. The second is to be wary of telephone calls that have already been recorded from phoney government entities. In most cases, the Social Security Administration doesn’t call people.
Similarly, do not supply any personal information and quickly end the call if you suspect fraud; and support Connecticut’s investigations by filing a complaint about robocalls.
Furthermore, according to the Attorney General, to avoid receiving spam messages, customers should report fraudulent texts to their wireless service providers and refrain from replying to texts that seem shady or are sent from an unknown number.
In addition, he cautioned against providing sensitive personal or financial information and against clicking links in dubious texts.
In addition, he advised calling a company that sends a text message to confirm the connection using a legitimate number, stressing that con artists may use their fake numbers to appear in a search engine. It was suggested to utilise something other than a search engine to authenticate the phone number.